A Proposal For The Carolina/Clemson Rivalry
Those of us who have grown up in the state of South Carolina know the rivalry between the University of South Carolina Fighting Gamecocks and the Clemson Tigers for what it is: one of the most bitter, emotionally supercharged and longest-running rivalries in all of college sports. Those who have not been born into this war, even fans familiar with the college football landscape, are awestruck with the level of passion and intensity it inspires, often comparing it to the great rivalries from across the nation; Miami/Florida State, Texas/Oklahoma and the gold standard of college sports hatred, Alabama/Auburn. Yet, our annual in-state contest remains something of a secret to most of the nation, despite being the third-longest running rivalry in college football. Our big game doesn’t even have a proper name, allowing it to be eclipsed by contests with catchy handles like the Iron Bowl, The Red River Rivalry, and the Backyard Brawl. The Trophy for which we compete is shameful: The Hardees Trophy, an appallingly commercial award that is steeped in no tradition and says nothing about the State of South Carolina or the passion with which we approach our teams. The last tradition of the rivalry that was unique and appealing ended half a century ago. I’m speaking of Big Thursday, an event that combined the biggest game of the year with the state fair, and was uniquely South Carolinian. One can only imagine a timeline in which Big Thurday was allowed to survive and thrive, perhaps to represent our state AT LEAST as well as the Egg Bowl does Mississippi, but alas, it was not meant to be.
Looking around the country, several rivalries have captured the imagination of the nation, even when played between teams that don’t have the talent or success of our in-state schools. Teams play for delightfully funky trophies like giant axes, oaken buckets, bejeweled Shillelaghs, a platypus, wagon wheels and golden hats. Engaging monikers capture the imagination: The Apple Cup, The Backyard Brawl, The Civil War, The Iron Bowl, The Duel in the Desert, Farmageddon. A full list of rivalry games and trophies can be found here, and a quick look at the fun of these rivalry names and trophies makes clear what is wonderful about college football, and why USC/Clemson is overlooked by the nation at large. Our big game is listed as “The Battle of the Palmetto State”, a title I’ve heard used to describe the game, but never used as the name of the game itself. This name is wanting. Could you not call ANY in-state rivalry “The Battle of the [insert state nickname here] state”? Where’s the originality? Where’s the fun? Even calling the game “The Palmetto Bowl” would be preferable.
The most profound shame lies with the Hardee’s Trophy. I could almost live with such a blatantly commercial corporate monstrosity if THE CORPORATION WAS ACTUALLY BASED IN THE STATE. A trophy provided by an in-state corporate donor would at least say something about what our state has to offer, but Hardees’ corporate offices are in St. Louis, and can be nothing more than a shabby exploitation of our biggest game perpetrated by out-of-state interests that cannot understand or respect the rivalry. The very existance of the Hardee’s Trophy cheapens the rivalry. It should be discontinued immediately. Winning the Hardees Trophy is like setting an Olympic record and recieving McDonalds gift certificates instead of a gold medal. It’s like knocking out Mike Tyson and getting a Bud light coozie. It’s disgraceful.
I offer a solution. It is a solution in which I ask your help. Starting a new tradition is a tricky business. Most college traditions grow out of random circumstance and eventually reach holy status after time. To conciously create a tradition requires the willingness and support of the fan bases on a grass roots level, coupled with a good idea, of course. I believe I have such an idea.
The South Carolina State flag is striking in its simplicity, and instantly recognizable to anyone remotely familiar with it. The lone palmetto tree and crescent moon are the most evocative symbols of our state, and should figure into the symbology of the tradition we are designing. So, should we make a palmetto tree trophy and let the winner of the USC/Clemson game hold it until the next game?
No, I say. I’m thinking bigger.
I propose the commission of two bronze palmetto tree statues, one to be located at Williams-Brice Stadum, and the other at Death Valley. Each tree should be around ten feet tall, and identically cast. Each tree should have a spot on top where a scale crescent moon, also bronze, could be affixed; and every year, Carolina and Clemson should play for that moon.
Imagine: Our big game would have a truly unique trophy to compete for, a trophy that could be displayed to the public year round, and even in losing years the lone palmetto still serves as a symbol of the state. Imagine ceremonies for the removal and presentation of a giant bronze moon to a winning team. Imagine ceremonies for the affixation of the moon to a previously bare tree. This could be really fun stuff.
To the best of my knowledge, nobody else in the country would have an arrangement like this. Suddenly our rivalry would have an identity, and in short order, pundits would begin playing on the crescent moon when describing the rivalry. “The Battle for the Carolina Moon” has a ring to it, don’t you think? How about “The Moon Bowl”? There are many possibilities here. Losing coaches would “promise the moon” for next year, “the moon rises” on the victor. I believe that this proposal would add a much needed bit of originality and fun to our rivalry.
So here is what I ask of you. Tell everybody. Spread this idea around your workplaces, your message boards, your local radio call-in shows. Run it by your family, your friends. Let’s see if we can retire that Hardee’s embarrassment, and replace it with something more befitting our favorite rivalry. Can we get the Universities to agree? Can we raise the funds? I don’t know, but I’d really like to try.
Thoughtful Gamecock is now dedicated to the replacement of the Hardee’s Trophy with the Carolina Moon, and will accept any support you may have to offer. We have begun writing letters to the various persons of importance at both universities (Board of Trustees, Presidents, Athletic Directors, booster clubs) and lack only a buzz among fans of both teams.
For this buzz, I come to you. Share this post with everyone who may care, talk about this proposal wherever you can. Offer us feedback on the idea, help us get this proposal into the public sports dialogue.
For your support in this matter, I thank you.
UPDATE: Sign the petition!